Kia Ora, my name is Thora and I am from Germany.
Talking about my Deaf identity, when I realised what it was, how I accepted it, and how it made me feel strong going forward in life.
It was a long time ago when I was young, but really, I didn’t know the difference between being hearing and being Deaf till I was an older child. That was because my family is Deaf, we signed all the time, my access to communication was fine. Everything all carried on as normal.
One day, in the playground when I was a little child, I could see some children playing and chatting, I could see their mouths moving. I thought I’d join in and started to talk with my mouth too, but they didn’t understand me. I was puzzled, I thought I was normal. My dad saw what was happening, he pulled me aside to explain that those children were hearing, they can hear. He said I was Deaf and the difference was that I use sign language. Ah, that was the moment I realised the difference between Deaf and hearing people.
But, were my family open and ‘out there’ as Deaf, using sign language, showing Deaf values etc.? No, not really. In public we had to hide our sign language, try lipreading and talking with our mouths, be passive. Generally, we were quiet about being Deaf.
When I was about 16, there was a camp for young Deaf people. There were lots of different activities, whoa, I was really inspired by it all. One presentation in particular had a really big impact on me. The presenter was talking about the DEAF PRESIDENT NOW protest at Gallaudet University in America, the university for Deaf people. The protest was successful, as the university got its first Deaf President. It showed that a Deaf person can run a big Deaf university. As I watched the presentation I thought, he can, he uses sign language, he has interpreters, he’s using his own language, he’s proud.
After that presentation I thought to myself, I’m strong, I can show the world who I am, that I value sign language – I can go ahead with confidence.